NHL Coaches with the Most to Prove in 2013-14 Season
The 2013-14 NHL season is just around the corner, and a few teams have coaches that have a lot to prove.
John Tortorella of the Vancouver Canucks will need to prove he can be effective with a roster devoid of gritty players. Patrick Roy will need to prove he can coach NHL players, and Dan Bylsma will need to prove that he can coach the Pittsburgh Penguins to a championship.
These coaches and a few others all have something to prove, but here are the coaches with the most to prove for the upcoming season.
Ron Rolston, Buffalo Sabres
Ron Rolston took over for Lindy Ruff last season, and he had a decent record in 31 games. Although he did well last season, can he sustain his success over the course of an 82-game season?
This year the Sabres will be in a tougher division, and they could lose Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller at the end of the season. Rolston should be able to be successful based on his track record in college and the minors, but he will need to prove it over a full season in 2013-14.
Rolston could get a pass if the Sabres are unsuccessful given the makeup of their roster, but he can still prove himself as an NHL head coach.
Patrick Roy, Colorado Avalanche
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The Colorado Avalanche hired Patrick Roy this offseason to be their new bench boss, but can he coach NHL talent? The goaltending legend has coached youngsters at the QMJHL level for the past few years, but he will need to take a different approach with NHL players.
Roy has NHL experience, but he was a goalie who doesn't know what it is like to be a forward or defenseman. He knows what it takes to win, but can he convey that to players who are playing for more than pride?
NHL players get paid significantly more than junior players, and if the season gets off to a bumpy start they could choose to tune Roy out. Roy should be just fine because he is a good coach, but there could be a slight adjustment period to start the season.
Dan Bylsma, Pittsburgh Penguins
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The Pittsburgh Penguins organization showed faith in Dan Bylsma by handing him a two-year contract extension this offseason, but his job could still be in jeopardy. Although he has a new contract, Jacques Martin was hired to be an assistant coach.
The former Montreal Canadiens’ bench boss has significant coaching experience and could be considered a bigger threat than Tony Granato to replace Bylsma.
Since winning the Stanley Cup, the Penguins have had little postseason success under Bylsma, and this year change could be made if the Penguins falter at any point.
Jack Capuano, New York Islanders
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The New York Islanders ended their playoff drought last season under bench boss Jack Capuano, but this season he will need to prove that he is the right coach for the franchise. The Isles are emerging as a potential contender that features some skill.
John Tavares is a superstar, Matt Moulson is an underrated winger and there are a number of prospects such as Ryan Strome and Griffin Reinhart who could make their debut in the next two years. The team is also moving to Brooklyn, so they will become a more attractive UFA destination.
With that in mind, will Capuano be the coach of this team once they hit their peak? The situation with the Islanders could become similar to what the Oilers did when they hired Dallas Eakins.
Tom Renney and Ralph Kruger served their roles as a mentor, and then another coach was hired when the team was ready to compete. Given the skill on the Oilers roster, there is no reason why they can't make the playoffs this season.
No one is saying that Capuano is on the hot seat, but if the Islanders struggle this season management may decide to make a coaching change.
Dallas Eakins, Edmonton Oilers
Dallas Eakins was an effective bottom-six forward during his NHL playing days, and he became an effective AHL head coach. Eakins is currently known for his development of Nazem Kadri while with the Toronto Marlies, and the Edmonton Oilers hope he can do similar things with their young core.
The Oilers have a blend of youngsters, intermediate players and veterans. The challenge for Eakins will be proving that he can coach professionals at the NHL level, and successfully balancing a roster primarily made up of skilled forwards.
Eakins never was a skilled player, and it may take him a while to connect with some of the Oilers' top guns who play an offensive-minded game.
Alain Vigneault, New York Rangers
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Alain Vigneault is the new bench boss of the New York Rangers and he will need to prove that he can coach a roster that is devoid of skill. The Blueshirts have limited skill on their roster, and Vigneault will need to change his approach to coaching. With the Canucks, Vigneault had a dynamic offensive and an effective power-play unit.
Management hopes he can bring the same to New York, but he will have to make the best with the current personnel on the roster. Vigneault signed a five-year deal with the Rangers, and there are a lost of expectations for the upcoming season.
If the Blueshirts falter there could be some wholesale change, especially when you consider that Henrik Lundqvist is slated to become a free agent.
John Tortorella, Vancouver Canucks
The New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks swapped coaches this offseason, and the Canucks' newest bench boss has a lot to prove. Torts has been known for his aggressive and physical style, but his current team lacks grit.
He already has said that he expects the Sedin twins to block shots and that is something that could backfire. Both the Sedins are skilled players who aren't built to block shots, and they could decide to leave the team if Tortorella becomes too demanding.
Both are free agents at the end of the season, and it is hard to see them staying in Vancouver unless Tortorella proves he can be flexible and adaptable.